Community through music: Nordista Freeze’s passion on and off the stage
A crowd of people packs into a compact Chinese restaurant on Charlotte Pike. Inside, they gather on the dance floor. An empty stage awaits.
Red satin ribbons line the walls and ceiling, converging at a large disco ball hanging over the center of the dance floor. Written with glitter, the words “SPACE PROM” glimmer on a banner at the back of the stage.
Hit songs from the 1980s pulse through a pair of speakers. The mob of people includes all kinds of characters, ranging from college hipsters in vintage attire — many of them Belmont and Lipscomb students — to high school girls in prom dresses and middle-aged dads dressed in sequined jumpsuits.
The music stops. Close to erupting with excitement, the mass of people inches closer to the small stage.
Out walks Nordista Freeze, dressed like a trendy Mad Hatter with a retro pink suit, a matching caped decorated with sequins and a top hat decked out in feathers. With his wavy, shoulder-length brown hair and intense gaze, the getup makes him look like a long-lost rock legend of the 1970s.
His band follows, dressed like characters out of an ‘80s sitcom.
A junior at Lipscomb University, everybody in the area — even his professors — knows him simply as Freeze. His real name lies shrouded in mystery, and he considers “Nordista Freeze” to be more than just an onstage character, using the name in his day-to-day life outside of music.
Growing up in Nashville, Freeze developed a love for music at an early age, after his father introduced him to the sounds of the Beatles and the Beach Boys.
“When you’re a kid, everyone wants to be a rock star, and I guess I just never stopped having that dream,” Freeze said. “I figured that someone has to keep making music, so why can’t it be me?”
Freeze enjoyed the creative aspect of music before he even knew what he was actually doing, and he began making his own music at age 13. Using only a Korg Kaoss pad, he spent countless hours crafting songs out of vocal harmonies and loops, he said.
Back at the Lucky Bamboo China Bistro, he begins his set with a cover of “Take On Me” by A-ha, much to the delight of the audience. As synths pulse and guitars wail, Freeze steps forward, his hand clutching the microphone.
The crowd comes alive.
Matching the bouncy rhythm of the song, Freeze jumps around on the stage.
Dancing breaks out in the mob of people. No one can resist the influence of the eccentric frontman’s electric energy.
“He was definitely in his element, and he knew how to portray that to his audience,” said Caroline Lafnitzegger, a Belmont sophomore who attended the Space Prom event with her friends.
“His show made me feel nostalgic for the kind of prom that you see in the movies.”
Known for his exciting stage presence, Freeze’s trademark crazy antics pretty much guarantee a memorable show.
He races around the audience like a track star and jumps onto people in the crowd while performing. At a recent show, Freeze even puked in the middle of his set, and the crowd applauded him for it.
“He just doesn’t really care about what anyone thinks of him,” said Grant Parker, Freeze’s close friend who often plays guitar in his band. “His goal isn’t to be cool, it’s to be different and find his own thing.”
Freeze pairs his ridiculous performance antics with an earnest desire to please his audience.
“When you go to a Freeze show, he’s always super thankful and gracious toward everyone who shows up,” Parker said. “It definitely taught me how to perform better, being onstage with someone of his character.”
During a show, Freeze keeps things rowdy onstage, but before each set, he stays quiet, calm and collected. He meditates and prays to collect his thoughts and conserve his energy.
“It’s hard because I want to work the door and see everyone, but I know that if I do that I’m going to be scrambled by the time I get onstage,” Freeze said. “The idea that people are giving me their undivided attention while I just go up and perform is pretty daunting and intimidating.”
In the middle of his performance, the calmer side of Freeze shows up in between songs, as he crouches down to meet and talk to people in the audience.
With Freeze, fans quickly turn into friends.
“He cares so deeply about not just making the best music he can, but also about the people he connects with,” said Kamryn Wong, a Lipscomb student who frequently attends his shows.
Always trying to help out other musicians and put events together, Freeze works hard to build community around him.
Many in his community know him for Freezefest, a free annual music festival he first put together three years ago.
The festival found its start in April 2015, and Freeze saw it as an opportunity for a farewell show for his high school band before it broke up and they went off to college.
In 2015, it went on for just three nights, with three or four bands playing each night at a couple of house shows.
In 2016, the festival extended to four nights, and 10 bands joined in. Freeze spent so much time working on the event, he lost his day job serving ice cream.
In 2017, 120 bands and visual artists got involved in the now five-night-long fest. He upgraded the festival from a few house shows to a series of performances at Phat Bites, a small, eccentric deli located on Lebanon Pike.
He fondly looks back on the final night of the festival in 2017, appropriately called Freezefest 3.
“I was having to manage all this crazy time slot stuff, but I would look up from my laptop and see like a hundred kids just dancing and having the most fun they’ve ever had in their lives,” Freeze said. “It felt a little bit like a heaven on earth.”
A little over halfway through his set, the bright pink cape and top hat lie on the stage after Freeze rips them off, flinging them aside as he dances across the stage without a care in the world. His pink suit still intact and his hair whipping around, he truly feels the music.
He shakes his hips.
He flails his arms.
He dances without a care in the world.
The carefree attitude found in his performances create a positive, laid-back and accepting environment for the audience, said Jackson Wooten, a sophomore at Belmont University who played Freezefest in 2017.
“I remember I was in the crowd at one of his shows, and I was really happy to just dance like no one cared.”
Freeze brings a carefree attitude to his shows, but he also brings this happy-go-lucky spirit to his life outside of music, just wanting to create fun, lasting memories.
“One time in our freshman year of college, it was snowing like crazy, so Freeze decided to jump into the fountain in just his underwear, which was so dumb but so funny and worth it,” said Parker.
“He just lives his life like everything is worth the experience.”
Even after an hour of performing, his energy shows no signs of fading. As the last chorus comes around, Freeze dives into the audience and wails into the mic, relishing the final moments of his performance as he rides out the waves of the crowd with ease.
This article written by Drew Pearce.